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Screenwriter William Goldman (1931-2018)


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William Goldman, the versatile writer who won Academy Awards for his screenplays for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "All the President's Men," has died at the age of 87. He succumbed to complications from colon cancer and pneumonia Friday morning at his home in Manhattan. 

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In the late 1950s, Goldman came up with the idea for a film based on the real-life outlaws Butch and Sundance, whose respective real names were Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Longabaugh. He researched his subjects for years -- and his diligence paid off. The 1969 screen Western, directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, became the year's highest-grossing release. It also rocketed Redford to screen superstardom.

The light-hearted film earned seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Sound. It won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay (Goldman), Best Cinematography (Conrad L. Hall), Best Original Score (Burt Bacharach) and Best Original Song ("Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" by Bacharach and Hal David).

Seven years later, Goldman won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for "All the President's Men" (1976), the Watergate drama in which Redford and Dustin Hoffman portrayed The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, respectively.

It was Goldman who came up with the often-quoted line "Follow the money." In the movie, the line is delivered by Woodward's government source "Deep Throat" (portrayed by Hal Holbrook, pictured below). It was never said in Woodward and Bernstein's 1974 non-fiction book on which the movie was based.

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Goldman also wrote the screenplay for the 1977 World War II drama "A Bridge Too Far," adapted from the best-selling book by Cornelius Ryan (author of "The Longest Day" -- the story of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944). This film was about Operation Market Garden, a doomed Allied effort in September 1944 to end the war before Christmas. The objective: To take control of several German-held bridges in the Netherlands on the road to Berlin. Directed by Sir Richard Attenborough, the film's all-star cast featured seven Oscar recipients: Redford, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Laurence Olivier and Maximilian Schell.

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Goldman's 1983 book "Adventures in the Screen Trade" contained a much-quoted line about the movie business. "Nobody knows anything," he wrote, referring to predictions on how well a film will do before it is released.

"No one has the least idea what is going to work," Goldman told The Guardian's Joe Queenan in 2009. "The minute people start acting like they know everything, we're all in trouble. Nobody thought 'Taken' would do $100 million. Nobody thought Liam Neeson would make it as an action star at this stage in his career. I heard a story that 'Slumdog Millionaire' was going to go directly to DVD. I would have loved to have been in the room when that decision was made."

Goldman, whose older brother James (1927-1998) won a 1968 Oscar for the screen version of his play "The Lion in Winter," also wrote novels that became motion pictures.  Among them: "No Way to Treat a Lady" (the 1968 film adaptation starred Rod Steiger as a clever serial killer); "Marathon Man" (the 1976 movie version starred Hoffman and Olivier); "Magic" (a 1978 thriller directed by Attenborough and starring Hopkins and Ann-Margret); and "The Princess Bride" (which became a classic adventure tale starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and Wallace Shawn in 1987).

In 2005, the Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West polled members to determine the 101 Greatest Screenplays. Three of Goldman's films were ranked: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (No. 11); "All the President's Men" (No. 53); and "The Princess Bride" (No. 84).

Only Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Billy Wilder had more screenplays on the list -- four each.

The No. 1 screenplay: "Casablanca" (1942).

Ron Howard Retweeted Hollywood Reporter

RIP #WilliamGoldman. One of the greatest most successful screenwriters ever. I was lucky as hell to count Bill as a mentor and a friend. Check his credits & see a William Goldman movie or read a Goldman book over the holiday & give thanks that we had his voice in our world.

Legendary William Goldman, has died. He gave us ‘The Princess Bride’ ( book even better than the film), ‘Butch Cassidy,’ the screenplay of "All the President's Men’ and best book on show biz, ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’. He was also a true friend. Thank you dear Bill

Ben Stiller Retweeted Hollywood Reporter

William Goldman was a huge part of creating some of the seminal movies of the 70s and beyond. His book on screenwriting was a touchstone for me and I always felt starstruck and intimidated seeing him at Knicks games. #RESPECT

“Nobody knows anything” is a liberating concept. It means don’t take no for an answer, be bold, try something new. Yes, the fall will probably kill ya... but listen to your inner voice. R.I.P. the great screenwriter William Goldman.

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William Goldman, 1931-2018.

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Naturally, this being a movie oriented forum, William Goldman will mostly be remembered for his many fine screen adaptations of other author's works (Stephen King, Cornelius Ryan, etc.) and too, excellent screen adaptations of his own novels.

Some of my favorite books were written by Goldman, some adapted to film, though not all adapted by him(Soldier In The Rain, for one.)  But sadly, not all my favorite Goldman novels were made into films although I thought they'd make GREAT movies.  For instance---

YOUR TURN TO CURTSY, MY TURN TO BOW;  and BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER( The '79 movie is NOT based on Goldman's '64 novel).

One interesting aside:

Canadians are usually noted for their articulation and literary astuteness and accuracy, however, I heard of the death of Mr. Goldman on a Canadian radio station while driving to the hospital to see my wife.  And the radio announcer kept going back and forth in his referring to him as both William Goldman, and William Golding,  who died 25 years earlier.  :unsure:

Sepiatone

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While "Princess Bride" gets all the credit, I was just mentioning his 1994 Mel Gibson Maverick script in another discussion just yesterday:

Of course, William Goldman in the 70's, adapting his own novels for "Marathon Man" and "Magic", and showing his ability to put an original genius plot together, was still the last great age of the Old-School Screenwriter.  In the current age, where studio producers are literally trying to make movies without writers, and screenwriters think they can become "Indie filmmakers" with no one to kill their navel-gazing darlings, classic old-school 70's screenwriters reminded us that it symbiotically took THREE people to create a classic film story, long before the actors got a hold of it.

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Goldman's only misstep (to me) in adapting one of his own books is how he didn't make it clear later in the movie MARATHON MAN, as he did in the novel, that DOC and JANEWAY( "Janey") had a homosexual relationship.  

Didn't ruin the movie for me regardless.  ;)

Sepiatone

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On 11/17/2018 at 8:47 AM, Sepiatone said:

he didn't make it clear later in the movie MARATHON MAN, as he did in the novel, that DOC and JANEWAY( "Janey") had a homosexual relationship.  

Wow, really? Possibly it wasn't considered terribly essential to the plot. Possibly there was some pressure from the studio not to include that element in the movie.

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7 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Wow, really? Possibly it wasn't considered terribly essential to the plot. Possibly there was some pressure from the studio not to include that element in the movie.

It couldn't have been because of the director John Schlesinger, could it? He was a filmmaker who didn't shy away from controversial subjects.

Image result for john schlesinger marathon man

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On 11/17/2018 at 9:47 AM, Sepiatone said:

Goldman's only misstep (to me) in adapting one of his own books is how he didn't make it clear later in the movie MARATHON MAN, as he did in the novel, that DOC and JANEWAY( "Janey") had a homosexual relationship.  

Didn't ruin the movie for me regardless.  ;)

Sepiatone

Possibly it was there, but it got cut. I remember reading that too when the film came out. (I hadnt read the novel).

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